that is the question

Warning: contains self-centered ramblings about my complicated relationship with Physics. If you do not in fact care about me, Physics, or our rather sporadic love for each other, please skip the following and read this instead.

The other day I was asked an interesting question. An interesting question by my somewhat-spastic Danish Thermodynamics professor who doesn’t seem to believe in legible handwriting or anglicized pronunciations of the Greek letter ‘mu’. And the question was:

“Do you think you want to continue in Physics?”

Might not seem interesting to you, I know.

But it sure as heck is interesting to me.

Even more interesting was that I realized that no one who is actually in Physics had asked me this question before. Maybe this is because, admittedly, I am not the most promising future Physics PhD student. Maybe this is because at Berkeley, continuing in your education seems almost inevitable, and it is hardly worth it to ask. Maybe it’s because at Berkeley there are so many students physics classes that it is positively nerve-racking even to approach a professor with such personalized concerns such as advice or guidance.

Or maybe it was because on that day I had actually expressed excitement for a physics project (I’m trying to program a Monte Carlo simulation of the Ising Model, which is a microscopic view of how materials are magnetized…which is in fact more of a manifestation of my love for MatLab than for Physics) which made me seem more promising than I actually am. This assumption will (sadly) most likely be proven false by the time the exam rolls around.

Instead, the question has always been: What are you going to do after Berkeley? That I have several answers for: join the theater, write the next great American novel, start a band, save the rainforest, or else just try to find a way to stay in Berkeley as long as possible, to name a few. Never has the question been what are you going to with Physics. Hm. That’s a toughie.

And posed with that question, point-blanc, in yes or no format, I stopped in my MatLab-giddy tracks and flat-out lied.

“I don’t know” was the real answer.

But what I told him was: “Yes. I think so. And if I can’t get into a good program in the States I’ll come back to Sweden. But I’m not really sure…”

Dang. Did I really just say that? What has become of me?  At least I qualified it with “I’m not really sure…”

Do I want make physics my life? Do I want to come back to this cold country in order to do it? I am sure as heck not suffering through learning Swedish simply so that I can watch Ingmar Bergman films without subtitles. Or am I?

There we go. That’s it. What I want to do. Namely: Become the next Ingmar. And yet that still doesn’t answer the Physics question, now does it? O, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!

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One Response to “that is the question”

  1. Sabrinam Says:

    Outrageous fortune it is!

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